ANC looks at the state of our nation

2015-08-25 13:45
A protester holds up the SA flag during a service-delivery protest. TheANC’s internal discussion documents admit that corrupt practices and arrogance by some in leadership positions are directly affecting social delivery. PHOTO: Bafana Mahlangu / Sow

A protester holds up the SA flag during a service-delivery protest. TheANC’s internal discussion documents admit that corrupt practices and arrogance by some in leadership positions are directly affecting social delivery. PHOTO: Bafana Mahlangu / Sow

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The ANC’s national general council (NGC) meeting is its midterm review between conferences that are held every five years.

It’s a stock take and national-temperature gauge of where the party thinks things are at.

Last Monday, it released discussion documents that will form the backbone of discussions at the NGC in October. Most of the documents are assessments of state, ie, where the governing programme is at.

There are few surprises. The outliers are experienced hands: Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti is also an energetic member of Cabinet. All four have made good progress on the resolutions set at the party’s 2012 conference in Mangaung, which set the course.

The rest of the document describes fewer successes. The various economic policy programmes (run by the departments of trade, economic development and the Treasury) are not yet working like a well-oiled machine.

The directional confusion here is reflected in a slumping economy – which is, of course, also an outcome of the vicissitudes of the global economy.

The ANC’s NGC documents are measured against various guidelines – these include its 2012 resolutions, the National Development Plan and the state’s medium-term strategic framework.

Having so many different sets of policy parameters has slowed down progress in the state and also sets up a complex governing agenda for the party to be effective.

The National Health Insurance initiative has moved at a snail’s pace and there is still no completed land audit – so we don’t really know who owns what by racial breakdown.

The documents say: ‘Just before the advent of democracy, disaggregation of ownership by race was deleted in the Deeds Register.’

The health ombudsman position has not yet been created and the state has not been able to move to a system of free, basic tertiary education, as the fiscus won’t allow it.

Here are a few edited extracts from the documents:  

Are we a nation?

A good society does not emerge “ripe and ready for harvesting at the point of transfer of power”. Having captured the beachhead in 1994, the [ANC] sought to transform the state. This led to the forging of a vibrant multiparty democracy based on a Constitution that enjoys the allegiance and support of the overwhelming majority of South Africans.

However, weaknesses in the state have hindered the speed at which social change can be implemented and the extent of mass involvement still leaves much to be desired.

There has been progress in forging a sense of nationhood and some measure of acculturation. But disparities in spatial dynamics [essentially, that races and classes still live separately] conspired to undermine this.

China and rest of Africa

Rivalries among the world’s big powers continue. There are ongoing attempts to undermine the relations China is building with developing countries.

In the past 20 years of our democratic dispensation, we have seen an increased growth of trade relations between our country and the People’s Republic of China.

China-South Africa trade and investment have increased quantitatively and qualitatively.

Africa’s collective GDP, which recently was more or less equal to that of Brazil, will almost double by the middle of the 2020s. So will consumer spending. The current infrastructure deficit that the continent is suffering from is a boon.

Flammable social tinder

Poverty and inequality are set to inflame passions even as progress is made to deal with them. This is the flammable social tinder the democratic state has to manage. What seems to be new, with major implications for state legitimacy, is how deeply entrenched corrupt practices [driven by a few state employees, public representatives and the private sector] and arrogance by some in leadership positions have become, which are directly affecting social delivery.

There is clear intent and serious action to deal with corruption. But when there is repetitive poor management of the allegations of corruption and patronage in leadership echelons, the legitimacy of the state and the polity is undermined.

Over the past few years, a general impression of systemic corruption has been created, including unsavoury developments in state-owned enterprises, strange machinations in security and tax authorities and unconvincing responses to admonitions for accountability by relevant constitutional bodies.

When the general impression [of corruption] can be directly linked to poor capacity in state agencies, the high turnover of managers’ patronages, cover-ups and appointments that defy any rational logic, the state starts to progressively lose the confidence of the people.

Factionalism and “money politics” were identified as some of the critical weaknesses sapping the revolutionary core of [the ANC]. Further, many acts of corruption in government derive from party dynamics and similar challenges afflict allied organisations in various centres of power.

Rainbow nation. Not

The number of people who believed race relations were improving had dropped to about 30% [of a surveyed group] in 2012 [from highs of 60% and more]. The same applies to the confidence “in a happy future” for all races.

According to research by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, the desire for a united South Africa has also declined.

South African society is deficient in value systems. Chief among these are values that encourage “greed, crass materialism and conspicuous consumption. These are tendencies that go beyond the necessary spirit of entrepreneurship, ambition, daring, competition and material reward that are inherent to a market-based system and perhaps to human development in general.” [The quote is from the Mangaung conference resolutions].


The ructions at universities around issues of curriculums, content, institutional culture and symbols are a welcome reflection of young people taking the initiative to address a patent gap in the unfolding process of social change.

On the other hand, such contestations also highlight the weaknesses of the movement in leading ideological debates and in facilitating a “cultural renaissance”.


The series of crises at the public broadcaster reflect a lack of leadership, accountability and [good] management.

In confronting the crises, more emphasis has been placed on reporting processes without a corresponding attention to holding those responsible to account for the financial and organisational maladministration that has brought the public broadcaster into the crises.

This situation has prevailed because institutional structures responsible for oversight have not been effective. There has also been an overlap in oversight roles enabling the public broadcaster to forum-shop.

The transformation of the SABC from being an apartheid mouthpiece to being a credible public broadcasting institution [is welcome].

In recent years, the SABC has played a very important role in the national and local elections, thereby strengthening our democratic discourse. 

Do the ANC discussion documents really capture the state of the country right now?

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